Bill Loomis| Crain’s Custom Media
In the state’s quest to help manufacturing companies find employees, one solution emerged from a trip Gov. Rick Snyder took to Germany in March, 2012.
He saw how apprenticeship programs can be effective, and that idea became the foundation for Michigan Advanced Technology Training – also called MAT2, or “MAT squared.”
The program is now set to enter its second year, with an eye on expanding the offerings and number of people taking part in it.
In MAT2, employers help pay the tuition for students, and then offer training during their education. Oakland Community College and Henry Ford Community College partnered on the program with the Michigan Economic Development Corp., but other schools may be involved in the future.
The program drew 30 students and 11 employers the program in 2013, giving officials the success stories needed to expand the program as it now enters year two.
“Already these students are in super high demand,” said Amy Cell, Senior Vice President of Training Enhancement at the MEDC, who was involved with the program from its infancy.
Now into its second year, the program will likely be expanded to a target of 90 students and 50 employers.
The program addresses a workforce issue that impacts both job seekers and employers.
In a survey conducted by MEDC and the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences in Ann Arbor the single biggest concern for small to mid-sized manufacturers in the US is finding qualified employees.
The critical lack of help to handle advanced computer based manufacturing tools such as mechatronics, CAD/CAM product design, and simulation was affecting future prospects for many companies in Michigan. High Schools were not coming close and community colleges could not address those specific needs of small firms.
Inspiration struck during Snyder’s 2012 visit to Germany, and the apprenticeship model for MAT2 idea was conceived. Three months later, meetings were being held.
“Our first meeting was June of 2012 with ten employers, mostly German companies with facilities in Michigan who understood the German training model and directly knew the inability to find qualified help in Michigan was a very serious problem,” said Cell.
The first program was focused on mechatronics; a name created from the combination of mechanical and electronics technology, which uses electrical, mechanical, computer and industrial engineering for product design.
MAT2 targeted “middle skills”, students looking for a two-or-three year associates degree.
Member employers contributed funding which pays the student’s college tuition, provided between $9.50 and $12 per hour for them to work and apprentice while in college, then a strong prospect for a job when they graduate.
Employers use the students for an eight-week apprenticeship and train the students on things that are a specific need in the manufacturing operation.
“Students have a very strong loyalty to these companies,” Cell said, and noted that employers seem pleased so far.
Building off the foundations of the program, the second year for MAT2 will add a program for IT; a strong need for manufacturers.
Cell with others promotes the programs to students and their parents at high school events and seminars.
While focus has been in lower Michigan, already she is talking of expanding to Mott Community College in Flint and Macomb Community College as well as Northern Michigan University in Marquette.
“In the future we plan an aggressive statewide expansion. We also have recognized a strong need in healthcare industry for mid-level trained employees. We could see expanding into that sector as well.”